Lengthy but valuable "Powerpoint" style presentation by Fr. Dcn. Matthew Dallman (Akenside Press) on the Benedictine backdrop of the Book of Common Prayer as it relates to English spirituality. Where the Benedict Option begins for Anglicans. Enjoy.
An absolutely superb review of Mary Eberstadt's recent book by Rachel Lu, writing at the Federalist: Why Are Progressives On An Anti-Christian Witch Hunt? I want to focus on these salient words from the article:
Eberstadt presents the persecution of Christians as a kind of witch-hunt. Even though traditional religion is in fact culturally marginal, progressives view Christians as a monstrous threat, poised to subvert the whole nation with our anti-freedom theocratic agenda. We’re a kind of cultural boogeyman in an age of overwhelming anxiety.
On this reading, the impulse to persecute arises from a kind of mania. Deep cultural anxieties get transferred to Christian scapegoats. Progressive fear of Christians is like a Freudian psychoanalytic phobia.
David Goldman, in his review of Eberstadt’s book, points to another possible explanation. What if progressive fear of traditional religion isn’t based on a delusion? Perhaps liberals correctly perceive that their cultural dominance is fragile and already beginning to crumble. Perhaps they fear Christians because they accurately identify is as the most significant cultural force outside of liberal progressivism itself. Perhaps they sense that traditionalists, even when relegated to a counter-culture, have the cultural resources to challenge their hegemony. . . .
Over the last few decades, the progressive elite has enjoyed congratulating themselves for outgrowing traditional religion. Religious people have long been presented in the media as reactionaries and rubes, hopelessly blinded by hateful prejudice. A thousand elite autobiographies have begun with a smug recounting of the progressive “saving experience” wherein the child in church realizes that God is dead, and that the Sunday School teacher is just a pitiful functionary of a corrupt purveyor of fairy-stories. This condescension towards religion is an elemental component of progressive faith.
Now the liberal elite has a problem. Traditionalists aren’t nearly as extinct as we’re supposed to be. Actually, our beliefs and communities are looking surprisingly resilient. Committed Christians met a nice, gay couple (even several!) and still held to traditional sexual morals. The pro-life movement keeps hanging around like a bad cold. Liberal progressivism has not been the unqualified political and cultural success they expected it to be.
Things feel precarious. Liberals feel threatened. The psychic balance between progress and tradition is wildly disturbed. Panicking because a Christian friend offers to pray for you is in a way quite absurd, but to the insecure liberal, the offer to invoke divine influences may seem genuinely ominous. They don’t understand traditional religion, but it seems to have an eerie staying power. Some traditionalist spokesmen, if you listen to their siren song, actually seem fairly reasonable. They even have the audacity to bolster their self-image by doing good deeds!
Suddenly those reactionary rubes start seeming like a real threat. The hysteria begins to mount. . . .
Like Goldman, though, I’m mildly perturbed by the way Eberstadt presents Christians as culturally weak and helpless. To be sure, many elements of the present situation are beyond our control. Persuasion is very important at the present moment. In many respects, though, progressives are right to fear us. They have reason to shut down conversations before they can begin. We aren’t really looking to dominate them through theocratic tyranny, but we do have some very powerful critiques of their sex-obsessed “faith.” Also, our traditions have a depth and balance and reasonableness to them that progressives have barely begun to appreciate.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Christians will populate these American shores for a long time after our insecure degree-toting elites have been relegated to the pages of dusty books. That’s a good enough reason for progressive liberals to read Eberstadt’s book, and reflect on their manic animosity towards Christians. It’s also reason for Christians to persevere in hope.
Contrast this with the recent utterly defeatist tone of Rod Dreher's recent piece, The Coming Christian Collapse:
Spencer predicted that Catholicism and Orthodoxy would benefit from this collapse. Maybe so, but he must have had no idea how unprepared Catholicism and Orthodoxy are to react to these developments among Evangelicals. We can hardly keep our own young people, much less offer a safe, strong position for refugees from the Evangelical collapse to land. In theory, we have it. But we either don’t really believe what our own traditions teach about themselves, or we don’t care enough about it to teach it effectively to our own young.
Conclusion: Christianity in America is strong in pockets, but mostly its strength is only apparent. It is a façade that will come tumbling down when social conditions are right. This is something that most of us Christians will live to see. This is something that few of us Christians will have prepared for.
And when it happens, our bishops, leading pastors, and senior laymen will be like the GOP Establishment in the Age of Trump, left to wonder what in the hell happened.
Wrong, Rod. As I wrote in the comments section under his article, "I beg to differ . . . . Ruin is coming to the West, and the Church will be the sole beneficiary", and in a friendly tweak to his despondent nose, I posted this video from Apollo 13:
"There’s no doubt in my mind that Christians will populate these American shores for a long time after our insecure degree-toting elites have been relegated to the pages of dusty books." Lu is right and Dreher is wrong. Lu is right because the Church is Christ's and Christ is the Dread Sovereign and Lord of History. Ruin is coming to the West, which is to say, to the liberal elite who imagine that they run the West, but whose program has been an abject failure and whose states no longer enjoy political legitimacy, if they ever did. They are going down, and they're going down hard. They will go down because we will take them down one way or the other, either by our efforts alone (pass the ammunition), our efforts aided by supernatural blessing (praise the Lord and pass the ammuntion), or by supernatural means alone (Praise the Lord, i.e., the Eschaton.)
Rod: stop wringing your hands and cowboy the you-know-what up. "¡Viva Cristo Rey!"
Another hard-hitting critique from Touchstone's S.M. Hutchens, which follows an earlier one entitled The Conservative Episcopalian Mess. Recent OJC comments on ACNA's mess can be read here, here, here and here.
It appears the fix is in. One ACNA priest comments with reference to "Messier yet":
Well-written and well-reasoned, especially the part about churchmanship being a red herring.
A year ago, I'd have thought that the issue was probably going to fade away because of the lack of support for WO among the bishops as a whole. I.e., WO would die by attrition as the current female presbyters retire and few new ones are ordained.
Since then, I've heard an increasing reframing of the discussion (including by folks at the highest level of church authority) as to whether or not we'd continue in the "agreed" path of "dual-integrity," as if that was the plan in ACNA from the beginning rather than a temporary solution while the bishops did some theological work on the issue. That really smells like a bait-and-switch to me.
If it is still true that the vast majority of the bishops support the historic approach to Ordained Ministry, I wish they'd just be bishops in this matter rather than politicians. And if it's not true, I wish they'd stop stringing things along and just own up to WO being the law in ACNA so that folks for whom that is a deal breaker could move on.
NOT MANY readers of C. S. Lewis know that, despite his well-known sympathies with the major texts and theologians of the West, he embraced a radically Eastern vision of the Christian life as a pilgrimage toward total transformation called theosis. This is a Greek word that does not actually appear in the New Testament. Yet like Trinity and Atonement, as terms also absent from Scripture, it is crucial for comprehending the Gospel. Roughly translated, it means the “divinizing” or “deification” of human life. C. S. Lewis’s friend Charles Williams gave it an odd English translation: “in-Godding.” We are called not merely to be yanked back from the brink of Hell, so that we remain ransomed but still sodden sinners for the sake of the Kingdom. Nor are we meant to follow Jesus as our Exemplar, striving for moral improvement so as to become “good people.” Important though these things surely are, they don’t touch the depths of theosis, which calls us to participate in the very life of God. We are summoned to be nothing other than icons of Christ. . . .
As Lewis also argues in Mere Christianity, the whole purpose of the Gospel is to turn Christians into what he variously calls “new men [and women],” “little Christs,” “Sons [and Daughters] of God”—all of which may rightly be called true icons.
In his book English Spirituality : An Outline of Ascetical Theology according to the English Pastoral Tradition, Martin Thornton surveys the English Catholic ascetic tradition, which he sees rooted in both the theologies and spirital traditions of Latin Fathers beginning with SS. Augustine and Benedict, and as given shape by medieval theologians such as SS. Bernard and Thomas Aquinas. In the context of the English Church, that spirituality takes more specific form through the influences of the Celtic Church, St. Anselm of Canterbury, the great English mystics Walter Hilton, Julian of Norwich, Richard Rolfe and Margery Kempe, and finally through the writings and practice of the Caroline Divines.
As mentioned in a previous post, I found his comments on St. Augustine both informative and rewarding:
Experience insists on some kind of predestination: some are Christians, some are not, and no Christian can take credit for his own conversion.
Now, that is in a nutshell the argument I've made here at OJC about the Pauline-Augustinian doctrine of grace: man is dead in sin and accordingly has no ability to understand the Gospel or to say "yes" to God's grace in his own power. Grace must "prevent" ("precede") faith (Eph. 2:8-10; the Pauline-Augustinian doctrine of "prevenient grace").
Thornton is quick to add, however, that he has "tried to explain that Augustine's great importance is to lay the foundation of Christian spirituality, not to complete its superstructure, a comment that reminds me of what J.B. Mozley said of such "superstructures", whether Pelagian or Augustinian: "All that we build upon either of (the root presuppositions of each system) must partake of the imperfect nature of the premise which supports it, and be held under a reserve of consistency with a counter conclusion from the opposite truth."
Indeed, Thornton, in good Arminian fashion, speculates here whether or not "we may think of being 'elected', not to inevitable salvation, but to the Christian struggle on behalf of others." Whatever the answer to that question may be, he concludes in good Augustinian fashion that the "Pelagian emphasis on austerity and rigour makes creative ascetical progress quite impossible", while "Augustine's doctrine of prevenient grace permits it." Indeed, our ultimate sanctification is all of grace.
Here. His comment is quoted here in full. My reply follows:
I actually do visit your blog from time to time. It does seem that I am your favorite example of everything that is wrong with the ACNA, and that's fine with me. I do find myself frustrated with your tendency to pin me on a board like the proverbial butterfly to which you've nicely attached a "label."
I did write that I was a "Reformation Christian," but I would never have added the adjective "mere"or say that we are under no obligation to "prayerfully consider" the admonitions of Rome, Orthodoxy, and Anglicans who consider Anglicanism a branch of the Catholic Church -- although with Michael Ramsey I consider the "three branch theory" to be a kind of trumphalist apology for schism. (Ramsey also came to affirm women's ordination.)
My understanding of what it means for Anglicanism to be a "Reformation" Church can be found here:
"Reformation Anglicanism thus saw itself as in continuity with the Catholic Church, and a reforming movement in the Catholic Church, but certainly not as rejection of genuine Catholicism."
"If I were asked to identify my churchmanship, I would call myself a “catholic evangelical” or a “Reforming Catholic,” in the tradition of movements like the Mercersburg Theology, Jenson and Braaten’s Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology, or figures like Thomas F. Torrance. If I am an Evangelical, I am an ecumenical Evangelical, who understands the Reformation as a reforming movement in the Western Catholic Church. If am an Anglo-Catholic, I am a post-Vatican II Anglican catholic, who understands catholicism as ressourcement, not as retrenchment. If asked to choose between an evangelical and a catholic understanding of the Reformation, I would refuse that choice as a false dilemma."
"I would suggest that Anglican theology can be understood as “Reformed Catholicism” or “Catholic Evangelicalism.”
Even on the issue of women's ordination, where I know you find my views not simply mistaken, but heretical, I affirm my position because I I am convinced a case can be made on theological grounds that are not only Evangelical, but also Catholic.
Grace and Peace,
William G. Witt
Greetings, Dr. Witt, and thanks for the opportunity to address your points in this new post.
First, there is no need for you to take what I write so about your beliefs so seriously, for in fact I do not view you as the key “example of everything that is wrong with the ACNA.” Yes, because of your visibility and influence in the ACNA I do highlight what I believe to be the error of your spirited and much-quoted defense of women’s ordination, but be assured that I am not singling you out personally. You are but one of many voices clamoring for retention of the unfortunate innovation, and it is that phenomenon – the widespread support for this unbiblical and uncatholic practice found not only in the ACNA but the wider Anglican Communion – that continues to draw the ire of those of us on the side of apostolic and Catholic tradition.
Moreover, I don’t believe that the practice of women’s ordination itself constitutes “everything that is wrong with the ACNA”. There are other issues that stick in my craw about the Realignment and “orthodox” provinces in the Communion: the inability of many of their clergy (especially millennials) to think systematically and historically about theology and politics; their influential “three-streams” orientation, which I have come to believe is both incoherent and un-Anglican; their willingness to abide un-Anglican practices in the Evangelical wing such as lay presidency at the Eucharist and the rejection of infant baptism; the rampant charismania/liturgical bacchanalia, and the unfortunate phenomenon, noted by such prominent Anglicans as Canon Arthur Middleton and Martin Thornton, of the “divorce between scholarship and pastoral practice from which Anglicanism still suffers” (Thornton, English Spirituality), that is, an inordinate emphasis on “Ph.D Anglicanism.”
It is true that you did not use the adjective “mere” when you spoke of “Reformation Christians,”, but let’s take a look at what you actually did say:
The long and short of it is, I am highly in favor of ecumenism (with Rome and Orthodoxy). At the same time, I think that the only proper way for ecumenical relations to move forward is that those of us who are Reformation Christians need to recognize that there are reasons that we are not Roman Catholics or Orthodox, and that progress can only take place if ecumenical discussion is a two-way street.
Now, when you say that being “Reformation Christians” means that” there are reasons “we are not Roman Catholics or Orthodox”, that is an implicit approval of not being in communion with them, notwithstanding your being “in favor of ecumenism”. I think that is a very unfortunate, uncatholic, and let me add – dangerous – implication to make. Anglican relations with the Orthodox were so good at the beginning of the 20th century that, had it not been for the Anglican Communion’s radical embrace of women’s ordination, which of course was rooted in deeper theological pathology, it may well have been in communion with the Orthodox by now.
What’s more, you Evangelical Anglicans aren’t the only “Reformation Christians” around. Reformation principles, as variously understood and implemented by the “Reformation Christians” who embrace them, has led to all manner of deviation from Catholic faith and practice, both “conservative” and radical. The problem with “Reformation Christianity”, as amply proved by its history, is that its principles provide no real anchor. Throw Enlightenment ideologies into the mix and “Reformation Christianity” becomes even more unstable. And that’s precisely what we have in Anglicanism, both in its liberal and “conservative” varieties. At the end of the day, departure from Catholic faith and practice is the result of rebellion (the liberal variety) or rebellion masked as reform (the “conservative” variety). In point of fact, while "Reformation Anglicanism (and later Anglican divinity – EP). . . saw itself as in continuity with the Catholic Church", its Reformational, and later, radical, principles put it on a trajectory away from continuity with the Catholic Church. The embrace of women’s ordination in the Anglican Communion is a key example, but by no means the only one. As I strenuously argue here at OJC and elsewhere, modern Anglicans need to come to grips with whether or not they truly do adhere to the classical Anglican belief that the Church of England and her progeny constitute nothing less than the Catholic Church and that what that communion of churches believes is the faith of the apostles and Church Fathers. There is only one way to be "in continuity with the Catholic Church," and that is, in fact, to be in continuity with it, especially with respect to an issue that has such deep and profound triadological and christological connections. And as Canon Middleton argues, we can't find continuity with it on our own terms. We have to find it in terms with our proven conformity, in faith and practice, to the mind of the Fathers.
It’s clear that you are “convinced a case (for WO) can be made on theological grounds that are not only Evangelical, but also Catholic.” But Rome, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and traditional Anglicanism – in short, the vast majority of Catholic Christianity - is not convinced of your claim to catholicity, just as many Evangelical Protestants are not convinced by your case on biblical and Protestant theological grounds. Your case has been examined and answered by both Evangelical and Catholic theologians. There is really nothing to do now except go our respective ways, your side unwilling to let go of your innovation and my side defending apostolic and Catholic faith and practice, which is why I believe ACNA will eventually fracture over this issue.
Or if it doesn't, it should.
"If ascetical theology depends upon an accepted doctrine of the Church as the Body of Christ, then Anglicanism fares no better than Protestantism. An equally varied body of opinion may be found in the ranks of the Church of England, but the significant difference is that, however abused, misused and misunderstood, Anglican ascetic is rooted in the Book of Common Prayer, which follows the universal pattern of Eucharist, Divine Office, personal devotion and habitual recollection, traceable through St Benedict to the New Testament. As an ascetical system the Book of Common Prayer presupposes the Catholic doctrine of the Church."
(The Rock and the River, Chap. 2)
H/T Matthew Dallman at Akenside Press.
"It would be untrue to say that Protestantism inevitably reduces the Church to a mere congregation of believers in this world, yet, in general, it remains suspicious of the full Catholic doctrine of the divine, ontological entity, eternally grounded in the permanence of the sacred humanity of Christ, embracing the saints in heaven and the departed in paradise; the Mystical Body of Christ in its fullness." - (The Rock and the River, chap. 2)
H/T Matthew Dallman at Akenside Press.
From his demolition job Without Precedent: Scripture, Tradition, and the Ordination of Women. Speaking of the vote in the Church of England that allowed the ordination of women, he writes (bolded emphases mine):
A speech that passed almost unnoticed in the course of the debate was that of David Lunn, then Bishop of Sheffield.
The supporters of the legislation are divided on this issue of revelation, perhaps more than they realise. Some (the majority, I suspect, though we have not heard much from them on this matter today) . . . do not believe that there is a revelation with a given, known, tangible, authoritative content: the Holy Spirit leads us without embarrassing encumbrance from the past. Others, while believing in the reality of God's revealed truth, have convinced themselves that the revelation is silent on this "indifferent" matter of ministry. Oh, my deaf friends, hear me. If this legislation is approved this afternoon the authority of Scripture in the decision-making processes of the Church of England will have been inexorably and fatally weakened. Let me speak particularly to the House of Bishops.
The bishops are appointed to be the guardians of that faith once delivered to us. To me it is both astonishing and distressing that the first fruits of the coming to prominence of so many Evangelicals among the bishops has been the steady carrying forward of this profoundly – at best – a-scriptural and probably unscriptural legislation. All of you, laywomen, laymen, deacons, presbyters, bishops, who believe that there is a concrete reality in God's revelation of himself, and that this is guarded, lived and handed on in Scripture and in the life of the Church, must hesitate for a very long time indeed before you vote for this legislation which, however its supporters may decorate it with quotations from Scripture, has its roots in a very different system of belief.
It was a speech that, in the eccentricity of its delivery, lost the impact it should have had. But it is packed with phrases prophetic of the future of the Church of England. "The Holy Spirit leads . . . without embarrassing encumbrance from the past." "The authority of scripture in the decision-making processes of the Church of England will have been inexorably weakened and fatally flawed!' "This legislation, however its supporters may decorate it with quotations from scripture, has its roots in a very different system of belief' Time has tested and proved the sagacity of those remarks. Though the Church of England continues, twenty years on, to celebrate the pain of those women who felt themselves denied their rights, the wisdom or otherwise of the innovation will be seen, not in its immediate fruits—the ministry of those women--but in the residual ability to deal with the social and ethical challenges which lie ahead. The immediate issue is that of homosexual marriage. No one in 1992, I suspect, envisaged a Conservative Party which would initiate changes in the understanding of marriage which would radically challenge the ipsissima verba of Jesus, the immemorial teaching of the Church, and the global cultural consensus of many millennia. But Vivienne Faull is right: "things are changing quickly in the country." And David Lunn was also right: the scriptural resources in the decision-making processes of the Church have been fatally weakened. (Michael Adie, you will recall, cited Jesus's own words about marriage, not to defend marital fidelity between a man and a woman—the burden of the texts—but to uphold a doctrine of sexual equality, which cannot be inferred from them.) It is not difficult to predict what the outcome will be. The real arguments in favor of women's ordination—anxiety about relevance and an un-nuanced attachment to human rights – makes the embrace of same-sex marriage only a matter of time. The present Archbishop of Canterbury has said as much. The church will be seen as “increasingly irrelevant”, Justin Welby told the General Synod, and as promoting attitudes “akin to racism.” On another (and, some had maintained, unrelated) topic he has nothing better to say than George Carey.
David Lunn was also right about the origins of these ideas: “legislation which, however its supporters may decorate it with quotations from Scripture, has its roots in a very different system of belief.” The language of inalienable and self-evident rights is very far from the unvarying vocabulary of the scriptures, which speak of divine will and gracious gift. It is the language of Jean-Jacques of Geneva, not of Jesus of Nazareth.
One is reminded here of the words of C.S. Lewis: "Now it is surely the case that if all these supposals were ever carried into effect we should be embarked on a different religion." Indeed. Sad that so many Evangelicals, all of whom believe themselves to be "biblical Christians" par excellence, have conspired to support such an unbiblical and uncatholic practice as women's ordination, so unbiblical and uncatholic in fact as to constitute a different religion, a difference in kind, not just degree. We might be able to forgive Evangelicals who do not have a Catholic ecclesiology or a Catholic view of ordination. Anglicans, however, cannot be forgiven.
"The Task Force has started with the three stream error. It is faced with the impossible task of coming to a theological compromise that allows the 3 groups to stay in fellowship. Of the 3 streams, Evangelicals and Charismatics tend to be more comfortable with the notion that God is doing a "new thing" which runs against the very nature of catholicity which stresses the unity and consistency of doctrine and practice throughout Church history. The enemy often derails us by creating confusion. That is what we have in the ACNA today. My prediction is that the ACNA will hold together because of the great affection that its members hold for one another, and the desire to prolong its life. However, over time the ACNA will have fewer and fewer catholic minded members. It will end up being mainly a 2-stream body."
Word. Indeed, as I noted here, "If (ACNA) agrees with ACNA theologian William Witt that Anglicans are mere "Reformation Christians" and accordingly that it is under no obligation to "prayerfully consider" the admonitions of Rome, Orthodoxy and Anglicans who still believe that their church is a branch of the Catholic Church, then let ACNA say so and go its merry Protestant way."
Stay tuned here for a quotation from the hard-hitting conclusion of Geoffrey Kirk's Without Precedent: Scripture, Tradition, and the Ordination of Women, which among other things faults Evangelicals in the Church of England for the role they played in forcing this uncatholic innovation upon the church.
Some new activity on ACNA Facebook page discussion referenced in the post below.
My friend Alice Linsley is a former Episcopalian priest who renounced her orders because, first of all, she is devoted to the Catholic Faith, and secondly because she became convicted that the ordination of women is a practice that stands in opposition to it. She has been a vocal critic of the practice since then. Like me, she sojourned briefly in the Orthodox Church, and also like me found a true home in orthodox Anglicanism.
Mrs. Linsley recently penned an article critical of ACNA's "dual integrity" policy, which was published at Virtue Online. It is fittengly entitled, "The Mushy Thinking of Neo-Anglicans". She posted a link to this article and other comments at the ACNA Facebook discussion, to which I responded by posting a link to the Touchstone/Mere Comments article also critical of ACNA from S.M. Hutchens, which, as I noted in the post below, the moderators at the Facebook page initially refused to accept. As of this morning, to their credit, it's still there.
However, that hasn't stopped certain participants from kvetching about us. One of them is my friend Chuck Collins, a priest in the ACNA and author of Reformation Anglicanism: Biblical - Generous - Beautiful. Rev. Collins is a staunch advocate of the Edwardian/Genevan phase of the English Reformation and a critic of Anglicans who see both Caroline and Tractarian divinity as a needed corrective to it. Unlike many Reformed Anglicans, however, he is an advocate of women's ordination. He complained with what he deemed to be the proper sarcasm:
I think it's great if ACNA fixates on an issue of which equally committed, biblical Christians disagree while the world is dying to hear about Jesus Christ. Congratulations.
This prompted a response from Cindy Larsen, an ACNA priest:
Chuck, that is why many of us do not respond to such things. We are keeping the main thing the main thing. What matters is Jesus!
Which elicited this response from Rev. Collins:
Thanks Cindy. In my advanced age, you would think that I would have learned by now. Sigh.
So you see, because "equally committed, biblical Christians disagree" on this issue, and because "the world is dying to hear about Jesus Christ", it isn't worth "responding to such things". "What matters is Jesus!" We sad traditionalists, in defending apostolic and Catholic faith and practice, are missing the big evangelistic picture doncha know.
Well, my response at the Facebook discussion to Revs. Collins and Larsen this morning is as follows:
"What matters is Jesus."
A proposition that stands at the very heart of the argument against women's ordination. Luke 6:46-49.
- What matters is Jesus, who was incarnated in the form of a male as reflective of the masculinity of God everywhere revealed in Holy Scripture.
- What matters is Jesus, who Jesus picked 12 men as his successors.
- What matters is Jesus, who promised to send the Holy Spirit to his successors to lead them into all truth.
- What matters is Jesus, who continued to be Lord of the Church after the death of apostles, and made His will known though Tradition, the "life of the Holy Spirit in the Church" (Vladimir Lossky).
- What matters is Jesus, in whom a male priest stands in persona Christi and hence must be a male.
- What matters is Jesus, who warned about those who called him Lord but refused to do what he says.
Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.
If there was ever a case in the history of the Church where churchmen and churchwomen refused to do the bidding of Christ, causing a great fall of their house, it is this the adoption of the uncatholic monstrosity known as women's ordination. What's more "Reformation Anglicanism" may be largely to blame here. If what I read on Facebook and elsewhere from ACNA clergymen on all manner of issues, the strain in ACNA is already beginning to be seen.
There is only one way to save the house, and that is to rebuild it on the Rock, which is precisely what traditional Anglicans are trying to do. But this doesn't matter to the proponents of women's ordination in the Anglican Church of North America. In this article, Fr. Robert Hart complained, "How can we talk about theology to people who answer with sociology, political theory and trendy psychology?" To that we might add people who answer with glib statements about "biblical Christians" who disagree on the issue and the "untold millions" dying to hear the Gospel.
In the combox dicussion under S.M. Hutchens' article, "The Conservative Episcopalian Mess", upon which I commented yesterday, an ACNA priest who happens to be a Facebook friend of mine objected to what he viewed as the article's unfairness:
I wonder if the writer has spoken to other bishops? Well over 70-80% of ACNA bishop are against WO. Right now the College of Bishop are prayerfully seeking the Lord as how to deal with this matter. The author seems to show a level of ignorance of someone who is outside the fight, and complaining about how the boxer is swinging!
Now it is true that the majority of the ACNA's bishops are against WO, but as Hutchens said in his reply,
Alas, though, I have been around long enough not to be even slightly impressed with a bunch of bishops, or anyone else, “prayerfully considering things.” In fact, I am almost at the point where when I am told that things are being considered prayerfully by anybody, I may assume that they wouldn’t change their pre-formed opinion on the article under consideration even if one appeared from the dead. If they manage to do what they should, now that will be impressive. (Emphasis mine.)
Indeed. The ACNA needs to decide whether or not it is truly a branch of the one, holy catholic and apostolic church, as Anglicans have long asserted about the Church of England and her progeny. If it is, then it will end the uncatholic innovation of women's ordination forthwith. If, rather, it agrees with ACNA theologian William Witt that Anglicans are mere "Reformation Christians" and accordingly that it is under no obligation to "prayerfully consider" the admonitions of Rome, Orthodoxy and Anglicans who still believe that their church is a branch of the Catholic Church, then let ACNA say so and go its merry Protestant way.
If the trend over at the ACNA Facebook page is any indication of just how prayerfully its managers are considering the question of women's ordination, well, it is clearly out of sync with the majority of the bishops. Several days ago I posted a link there to an important new work by Geoffrey Kirk entitled Without Precedent: Scripture, Tradition and the Ordination of Women. My post lingered on pending status for awhile and eventually disappeared. Yesterday I posted a link to the Hutchens article along with the quotation I set forth in the blog entry below. It went to pending status, and this morning I found that my post again had disappeared. They clearly aren't having any.
All of which highlights why we can all appreciate the quandary in which the majority of bishops find themselves. Should they "manage to do what they should", ACNA will rupture. And that's precisely why they won't do what they should. Unity trumps Catholic faith and practice.
Presiding Bishop Foley Beach, who is himself opposed to women’s ordination, notes in favor of the arrangement that “a lot of the women priests in ACNA have stood side-by-side with a number of our bishops and clergy who are against women’s ordination when they were in the Episcopal Church. These women argued for the right of these bishops to have the freedom to not ordain women. Women’s ordination is a very complicated issue, because we’ve got people who have given their heart and soul on each side. And, these people are sincere; they’re godly”
This is the center of the mess. The sort of people who should be in authority in the churches should evince the kindness, loyalty, and reasonableness seen in Bp. Beach. Here we have no evident crotchetiness, misogyny, queerness, vain ambition, pigheaded resistance to reasonable change, or simpering, lacy, power-addicted prelacies. The women priests are doubtless superior Christians of deep sincerity, and when considered functionally, pastoral competence.
But they are not men. As worthy as they may otherwise be, they cannot stand in the place of the man, with all the theological, sacramental, and symbolic significance of the male who is Christ, the head of the church, and in whose place the officiant at pulpit, altar, and the father of the congregation stands. The conservative priestess does not mean to, but she denies Christ by denying the testimony of his maleness as the incarnate Son, and stands where she does with and because of egalitarians who set the sex of the Lord at nought by teaching that the significance of his incarnation and Lordship lies only in his humanity and not in his sex. Translated into the convictions of the mediating churches this means that women priests, being fully human, are for that reason seen as just as qualified for the presbyterial office as men are—and in the case of the leaders of ACNA—that the denomination as a whole, in its generosity, good temper, reasonableness, and patience, is willing to give forth an uncertain sound on the “oughtness” of women’s ordination.
Who will deny that many women presbyters have the most pious intentions and aspirations? But what does this matter when the question of whether they may hold this office is essentially theological, and calls for a yes or no conclusion? I would ask ACNA in particular whether their toleration of women priests can stand up to serious examination in light of the doctrines to which they profess to hold, reflected in the symbolic life of their church, and whether a negative response to this question can sustain adequate ground for including in their communion those who answer it positively. The issue goes to the heart of the doctrine of Christ (that is why egalitarian theologians are so concerned with leveling the Trinity to comport with their views), and because of this it is a matter of “essentials” that cannot be treated as adiaphora or an article covered by exhortations to charity.
This confusion is of the least eradicable kind, for it is found where there is much solid thinking, good will, reason, courage, and integrity, so that addressing the problem properly looks like the pettiness and compulsiveness of inferior versions of continuing Anglicanism from which many of the member churches of the ACNA have made a long and painful escape, and in which this seemingly small measure of liberality is a valued–and necessary–part of a new identity.
The discussion in the combox section is also a must read, particularly the responses to one Karen, a supporter of WO plying her feminist theological wares. The replies are classic.
With Augustine, Calvin, and the Reformed, I believe that no one becomes a Christian "unless the Father draw him." Thus far my agreement with the Edwardian/Cranmerian phase of the English Reformation.
But I also understand why English Arminianism took issue with the Augustinian and Reformed doctrines of grace. "For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe." "And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." Thus my affirmation of Anglican Arminianism.
I am entertaining thoughts of ways these Scriptures can actually be harmonized without resorting either to Calvinism or Arminianism. Stay tuned.
I was talking with a friend the other day who is currently serving in an ACNA mission but who comes from the APA. His remark about ACNA was interesting. He noted that there is a huge segment of people in that province who, if it had not been for the consecration of Vicky Gene Robinison, would have happily remained Episcopalians. Their move out of TEc to ACNA, in his estimation, wasn't so much evidence of their being traditional Anglicans as it was of their being mere anti-gay bigots (his words). He went on to say that these peeople really have no clue as to what it means to be a traditional Anglican, or as to just what had happened to the Church of England and her spawn throughout the globe long, long before Robinson's consecration.
I've alluded here at OJC to what my friend is talking about, calling it the "Anglican Disease." What happened to Anglicanism, I maintain, is that both the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment worked in tandem to cut the CofE and her daughters loose from the Catholic faith, the former doing so by its preference for the academy over Catholic authority to settle theological questions, the latter doing so by its radical questioning of all traditional authority - which took place, again, mainly in Anglican academies. In this day and age even purported conservative Anglican theologians are not immune to the disease. Witness, for example, ACNA theologian William Witt's reference to "Ph.D Anglicanism" and "Reformation Christians" in his defense of the uncatholic monstrosity of women's ordination. Dr. Witt and too many like him in ACNA are examples of the phenomenon my friend was talking about. These people believe themselves to be conservative Anglicans, when nothing could be further from the truth. They are to Anglicanism what neo-conservativism is to the GOP. One perceptive writer at Touchstone calls them "latcons."
I watch the theological posts of my Anglican friends, who run the gamut from Anglo-Pentecostal to Anglo-Calvinist to Anglo-Papalist, with much intrigue, and honestly with a little sadness, as they strive to prove to one and all that their version of Anglicanism is the true or "classical" one. Alas, the vexing question of Anglican identity.
My own take at this juncture in my Anglican studies is somewhat different. On the one hand, as a Westerner soteriologically speaking I stand squarely in the Augustinian school, which means at the bare minimum that I believe no one becomes a Christian unless God makes him one. On the other hand, I am increasingly of the mind that the Reformation, including the English Reformation, has empirically shown itself to be a failed experiment, its laudable Augustinian underpinnings notwithstanding. All Anglicans, from the Cranmerians to the Catholics, have argued that the Reformed Church of England and her progeny is nothing less than the one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith, restored in England by the pious efforts of Reformers, Kings and Parliaments. Ideally in these folks' thinking, "Catholic" and "Protestant" need not be opposed, especially since in Anglicanism, so the argument runs, the Reform was essentially Catholic.
However, those who stress the Protestant character of Anglicanism need to come to terms with the fact that the history of Protestantism is one that betrays one defection from historic Catholic faith after another, in both its "conservative" and liberal expressions. For me, this is the determinative and damning commentary on the Reformation.
When the Cranmerians and Carolinians alleged that the Church of England sought to be nothing more than the Church of the Fathers, did they really mean what they said? Do their modern successors mean what they say? I really wonder. Neo-Puritans (Presbyterians with prayer books), charismaniacs, egalitarians (WO), emergentists: what a hodge-podge of everything that is anything but historically and essentially Catholic.
Canon Arthur Middleton nails it, IMHO. And so my advice to my Anglo-Protestant friends is this: give up the old Anglican claim to catholicity. You may be altogether right in your ecclesiological and soteriological claims, but if so, give up that claim. Be the Protestants that you are, and Lord bless. Perhaps you will finally be able to manifest what the Reformers, and their progeny to date, have never been able to manifest.
As for me, I seek full incorporation into that "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church" in which we say we believe when we recite the Creed, and I can only do so as an *English* Catholic, not a Roman one or an Orthodox one. I intend to follow the Lord's will, *whatever that may be*, now that I have separated from a Colorado parish and seek to enter into a North Carolinian one, but I'm thinking that the ramification of what I've said here means a return to the Anglican Continuum, which Continuum hopes some day to find a satisfactory ecclesial reconciliation with Rome or Orthodoxy (likely the latter). We shall see about that. Regardless, my Anglicanism can only be that of a Catholic kind, in keeping with the stated sentiments of Cranmerians and Carolines and Tractarians, however much they have missed the mark in that regard.
Happily, I have more options here in WNC than I did in Denver, as far as the Continuum is concerned.
We're in the process of moving from Colorado to the latest culture war front here in the States, North Carolina. Few if any blog posts until we get moved and settled. Don't touch that dial!
It's a nice start, Dr. Brown. We'll count it as an addendum to the late Francis Schaeffer's Christian Manifesto. But there is likely more to be said to the tyrants about the measure of our resolve.
Referring to this recent blog article from Prof. Tushnet: Abandoning Defensive Crouch Liberal Constitutionalism.
A representative conservative response, from the Christian Post, can be read here.
As I pondered the opinions of this execrable fellow, the assessment of anti-liberal attorney and author Jim Kalb came to mind:
Right-wingers are alarmed by totalitarian features of advanced liberalism: its insistent universalism, its theoretical coherence and simplicity, its resolute suppression of alternative principles of social order, its principled rejection of common sense, inherited ways, and the very concept of human nature. In the long run, they ask, how much difference can there be between “inclusiveness”—putting all persons and all human goals and actions into a single relation to a single universal and comprehensive order of things—and “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State”? If anything, the former aspiration seems more unlimited and therefore more frightening.
From the liberal standpoint, of course, all this is a joke. The liberal state is different from every other state. It’s a system of power that isn’t a system of power. It has a ruling class of experts, functionaries and lawyers that is reliably disinterested and moral. By controlling everything it sets everything free. That’s why it’s not fanaticism but moderation to say that only liberal states are legitimate. Worrying about “totalitarian liberalism” is like worrying about “oppression by neutrality” or “enslavement by freedom.” It might be an interesting paradox, but as a practical matter it just shows there’s something wrong with you. Above all, liberals are good people and don’t do bad things except to the extent they fall short of liberalism.
Still, what are the practicalities? It may be right—I think it is—to shrug off the liberal self-image as hopelessly self-deluded, but there are some things to say in its favor. In principle, liberalism may be far more ambitious than Mussolini’s fascism, and its ultimate goals may be far more inhuman, but it habitually proceeds by much softer means. Rather than crush an opposing force directly it weakens it by a thousand influences that make it unable to function and assert itself. Criminal prosecutions, when they come, are just a way of formalizing and putting beyond dispute a principle that’s already all but universally accepted. The Swedish government didn’t decide to toss Ake Green in the slammer for a sermon denouncing homosexuality until the Swedes had abandoned religion, made the provident state the basis of everything, and decided that since family relationships no longer served a serious function the sole public standard for sexual connections would be universal equal acceptance. When they came for Pastor Green, no one defended him and they could do what they wanted without being forced outside their comfort zone.
In the end, the liberal state is not principled, and nothing built into liberalism limits how far it can go. Nonetheless, it’s enduringly squeamish. It will use the final measure of force only against weak opponents whom everyone that matters has agreed to hold in contempt. Groups and institutions that stand firm, present their views forcefully and confidently, and keep on going in the face of abuse—who preach the word in all settings, in season and out of season—will prevail. That’s something Catholics, among others, need to remember. How bad things get—and they could get very, very bad—is up to us.
My own response to Tushnet, which I sent to him in an email, reads as follows:
OK, but just as long as we are permitted to treat you like Commies right back.
All sorts of stuff to be read into that one, isn't there, professor? :>)
It's clear from Tushnet's article that liberal-left activists will continue to use lawfare to produce "fundamental change" in these here United States, and that the losers in that war should be treated like defeated Confederates, nay, defeated Nazis. Of course, implied in all this is the notion that the activist courts will continue to be able to rely on American law enforcement to do their will.
But what if that notion is a faulty one? What happens if American law enforcement, and I'm thinking here mainly Middle American law enforcement, refuses to enforce the law, or what happens if a blindly obedient law enforcement runs up against a popular counterforce they have absolutely no chance of defeating?
What then, Professor Tushnet?
An excellent homily from Fr. Robert Hart (Anglican Catholic Church, OP). More germane than ever, given the times in which we live.